The Top 5 Christmas holiday First Aid incidents

Keep your Christmas activities memorable for all the right reasons! Many accidents happen at this time of year due to changes in our home arrangements plus more risks with fires, burns, trips and falls, heart problems plus the winter environment outside. Being aware of the risks is the first step to preventing them!

Here’s our top 5 Christmas first aid tips – just in case!

1. Stress and mental health

We’re all having a different kind of Christmas this year. Added to the normal stresses of the season, we are now likely to be separated from our usual Christmas gathering of family and friends due to Coronavirus restrictions.

It’s normal to feel frustrated and stressed at this time of year but being aware of the potential for stress and mental health issues is key to looking after yourself and your loved ones. Key tips are to plan ahead so you have some control over the days and can look forward to them, keep in touch with people, share the workload and share your feelings. Remember everyone is having a different and potentially more challenging Christmas this year.

Most importantly, get some support if you need it or feel someone you care about needs it. You can call the Scottish Association for Mental Health on 0344 800 0550 or the Samaritans on 116 123.

If you want to become more informed about how to respond to a mental health crisis and what the most common mental health problems are, join one of our Mental Health first Aid courses. There’s more information on these courses here

2. Burns

With the table all set, hot plates and dishes, fat spillages and even flames from brandy lit over a pudding are all extra risks at Christmas. There’s also the risk of fires from all those sparkly lights on the tree and around the house.

Burns are classed as minor or major but both require quick and effective first aid and may require hospital treatment. Minor burns are where the skin is reddened and sore from the contact or spillage. Major burns are where the skin is broken revealing fat tissue and even bone.

Treating a burn:

  • Put the affected burn under running tepid water for 20 minutes. This takes the heat away from the burn.
  • If a minor burn area is more than 5 times the size of your palm, go to hospital.
  • If there’s any broken skin ( and therefore a major burn), apply sheet of cling film over the wound as this will prevent infection. Cool it with tepid running water. Cut away any clothing around a burn – but leave any stuck clothing attached. Put a dressing over it and go to hospital.
  • Preventing infection of any burn is crucial. Removing jewellery is also important as swelling may occur.

Preventing burns is all about taking time and care over cooking plus checking those lights before they go up. Don’t leave lights on overnight or when the house is empty.

Read more about burns here

3. Choking

Christmas is a time for talking, eating and having a few laughs. Over-eating, being tired when eating and talking or laughing when you’re eating can all lead to chokes where food gets stuck in your windpipe. Children are also at more risk of choking if they put objects in their mouth such as lego, marbles or button batteries from their new toys.

Choking effectively blocks your airway and stops you breathing, a critical first aid incident.

First aid for choking is in 3 stages:

  1. If they can cough or speak, get them to persist in coughing to try and eject the object. If it doesn’t clear….
  2. Perform 5 firm back slaps between the shoulder blades. Get them to lean forward and support them so they don’t fall forward. Check to see if the object has cleared after each back slap. If it doesn’t clear…..
  3. Abdominal thrusts. Stand next to the casualty with their back to your hip.  Reach around to their front with both hands clasped together. Form a fist with one hand, place it just above their belly button area and pull ‘in and up’. Do this 5 times, checking to see if the object has cleared after each abdominal thrust.
  4. Repeat back slaps and abdominal thrusts until the object clears.

If the object doesn’t clear, be prepared for the person to collapse and help them on to the floor. You may need to perform CPR if their breathing stops. Phone 999/112.

Any casualty who has had abdominal thrusts should be taken to hospital for checks as there is a risk to internal damage from the strength of the thrusts.

Read more about choking in children and adults here

4. Slips, trips and falls

Getting Christmas kit out of the loft, extra electrical leads and all those presents all over the floor are a real recipe for trips and falls! There’s also that first ride of that new bike, slipping on the ice or snow and falling over after a few drinks.

Most trips and falls are minor but check for injury even if the person insists they are ok. No-one wants to be the killjoy at Christmas who ends up in A&E. Assess an injured area by checking that it’s in the correct anatomical position, has good colour, sensation and full movement. Look for any swelling or bruising and feel for any heat in the limb.

For sprains or strains, get them to rest the injured limb, apply cool water or ice then apply a comfortable compression (stretchy) bandage to support it. Then elevate the limb.  Ice and compression reduce the pain as well as the swelling. Keep this up until the limb is fully recovered which may take over 24hrs in some cases. Don’t leave the compression bandage on overnight. If in doubt, go to A&E.

If you suspect a broken bone or dislocated joint, immobilise the limb and apply a sling or improvise a sling using a scarf or similar supportive material. The casualty will present their injured limb in the most comfortable and painless position. Leave it in this position and immobilise it to prevent worsening or further pain. Take them to A&E or phone 999/122 for an ambulance.

5. Heart Attacks

The highest incidence of heart attacks in a day occurs on December 25,26,31 or 1st January. You are 37% more likely to suffer a heart attack during the Christmas holiday period than any other time of year.

The stress of the holiday season coupled with little exercise, excessive eating, smoking and/or drinking puts a lot of pressure on your heart.

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

  • Tightness in the chest, sometimes moving down the neck or arms
  • Tingling in one or both arms
  • Pale, cold and clammy skin
  • A ‘sense of impending doom’ or feeling of extreme anxiety
  • Dizziness or shortness of breath

What should you do?

  • Phone 999/112 immediately
  • Reassure the casualty and put them in the ‘Lazy W’ position – sitting on the floor against a wall and raise their knees. This takes some of the pressure off the heart.
  • Offer them Aspirin if they are not allergic to it. Get them to chew it slowly.
  • Give them lots of reassurance whilst waiting for the ambulance

Read our full blog on heart attacks here

First aid at your fingertips:

We have a series of digital first aid manuals on our website that you can download on to your phone, tablet or PC. They are available to buy for less than £4 and have these and other vital first aid techniques plus links to our series of first aid videos and blogs. You can view the full range of digital manuals here

And finally…

…Have a safe and enjoyable Christmas from everyone at the First Aid Training Co-operative!

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